Men’s Hockey recap: The NESCAC tournament and the first round of NCAA Division III Tournament

By Levi Lorenzo’ 19 and Patrick Malin ‘18

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While the Hamilton men’s hockey team fell just short of a NESCAC championship, the team played impressively all season and put themselves in a situation to win the title. Despite not winning the NESCAC championship, the Continentals’ season is not over, as their hard work and inspired play throughout the season was recognized as they received their first ever bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.

In the NESCAC semifinals this past Saturday, Hamilton welcomed seventh-seed Wesleyan University to Sage Rink. The Cardinals advanced to the semifinals after upsetting second-seed Colby in the quarterfinals. While seeded six spots below Hamilton, the visitors did not play like underdogs. Wesleyan got on the board first as Cam McCusker found the back of the net on a power-play at 7:29 of the first period after Continental goaltender, Evan Buitenheis ’18 sent an errant pass towards McCusker, who intercepted it and fired into an open net. Just over four minutes later, Jon Carkeek ’17 evened the score off of assists from Jason Brochu ’19 and Rory Gagnon ’19.

Wesleyan netted two more goals, one with 2:47 left in the first and the other 5:19 into the second, to take a 3-1 lead. The Continentals did not panic and battled back. In the final minutes of the second period, Hamilton went back on the power play and Bennett Morrison ’20 fired in a wrist shot from atop the right circle, cutting the Cardinals’ lead in half with 1:42 remaining in the period. The Cardinals defense hung tough and held the lead through the first half of the third period. With 9:26 left in the game, Conor Lamberti ’17 knocked in a loose puck to tie the game.

The tie score did not last long, as Jordan Jancze put the Cardinals back in the lead with 7:42 to play. As the clock winded down and Hamilton’s season hung in the balance, Nick Ursitti ‘20 stepped up to send Hamilton to the finals. Ursitti scored twice in the final five minutes, at 15:04 and 18:30, and Hamilton held on in the final 90 seconds to punch a ticket to the finals. Ursitti’s goal put Hamilton in the lead for the first time in the game after trailing 1-0, 3-1, and 4-3.

The Continentals’ foe in the final, then-No.11 Trinity, defeated Williams in the semi-final after taking down Tufts in the quarters. The game began in a defensive struggle highlighted by strong goalie play, and neither team scored for the first 37 minutes. As the clock ticked down on the second period, the chances of a second scoreless frame looked more and more likely. At 17:03 of the second period,however, Morrison broke the scoring seal, and, after a frenzied final three minutes, the Continentals and Bantams headed to the final period of regulation tied 2-2. Robbie Murden ’17, playing his first game back after missing the previous nine to a jaw injury, extended the Continentals lead just 28 seconds after Morrison’s goal. The scoring fired up the raucous home crowd, but the lead did not last long. At 18:09 of the second, Liam McFeeny put the Bantams on the board and scored the third goal of the game which had been scoreless a mere 70 seconds earlier. With 18 seconds remaining in the period, Brandon Cole tied the game at two and assured that the NESCAC Championship would be decided in the final period.

Despite a total of 19 shots, neither team was able to light the lamp in the final 20 minutes of regulation. The NESCAC Championship headed to overtime. Overtime in the NESCAC playoffs is simple: while broken up into 15 minute periods, overtime can last as short or long as it takes for someone to score. In this case, the Bantams needed all of 3:09 to secure the game and the title. Trinity won a face-off in the Hamilton zone and Ryan Cole fired a wrist shot from the left circle that slipped past Buitenhuis and gave Trinity the NESCAC title and an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.

The devastation from the Hamilton team was not permanent. The following day, March 6th, the Continentals earned their first berth to the NCAA Division III Men’s Hockey Tournament in program history. The at-large bid in the tournament allows Hamilton to continue one of the most successful seasons in Hamilton hockey history.

After receiving an at-large bid, the Continentals proved themselves in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament and defeated Oswego State 3-1. Game highlights include Robbie Murden’s ’17 100th goal in his college career at 9:30 in the first period. Taking advantage of the Power Play opportunities that Hamilton received off of Oswego State’s three penalties, Murden ’17 scored again at 12:43 in the second. Oswego State’s Chris Macmillan put the Lakers on the board at 13:33 in the third, only to be answered back by Hamilton’s Jon Stickel ’19 with less than two minutes to go. Now advancing to the final eight, Hamilton will play Norwich University this coming Saturday, March 18.

The 2017 NESCAC Champions, Trinity, kicked-off the championship with a win against local rivals Plattsburgh State.The Bantams will advance to play Endicott College, who defeated Hobart College in the first round. To round out the tournament’s quarter final match-ups this coming weekend, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point will play Adrian University, and St. Norberg College will take on Augsburg College.

The Continentals look to continue the best season in Hamilton Men’s Hockey history on the road this weekend. Hamilton is no stranger to its current underdog status after being constantly underestimated in national polls throughout the season. The team hopes to prove the season was not a fluke and will turn heads on the largest stage in Division III athletics this coming weekend.

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